Self Employment Tax Deductions for Freelance Artists

Last updated September 23, 2020

As a freelance artist, your greatest joy is likely doing creative work, not worrying about taxes. But taxes are inevitable in any profession, and there are some extra things to know when you’re self-employed.

For instance, understanding freelance artist tax deductions can make a big difference when it comes to paying taxes and earning profit, so it’s good to know that information well before tax season.

Freelance Taxes
The Ultimate Guide

This handy book will guide through best practices to follow when calculating your freelance taxes.

Oops! Something went wrong, please try again.

Why care about freelance artist tax deductions?

As an artist, you have some unique expenses, and while some of these freelance artist tax deductions may not seem like a big deal, they can make a big difference when added up at tax time. 

It’s important to track these freelance artist tax write-offs all year long. Then when you file your income tax return, the expenses will reduce your taxable income. That equates to more take-home pay and less taxes paid, always a good thing.

Common freelance artist tax deductions

There are some typical freelance expenses as well as some specific to your industry that can be used as freelance artist tax write-offs. You may want to consider consulting with an expert like an accountant before determining what to track, or using an accountant at tax time and providing them with your freelance artist tax deductions.

🖌   Art supplies
This is one that is special to your business, as art materials are considered freelance artist tax deductions. That can include sketch books, pencils, canvas, paints, film, and more, depending on your art.
✏️   Office supplies
You can also use the cost of office items like pens, notebooks, printers, cartridges and printer paper as deductions.
💲   Business start-up expenses
You likely need hardware like a computer, a phone, and a desk, to manage the business side of your work. These are considered capital expenses, used on an ongoing basis.
💻   Software expenses
Perhaps you need special software as an artist, or you use a specific email program that benefits your business. These are freelance artist tax deductions.
🏛   Office and studio costs
You may have office space and a studio, and perhaps even storage space for canvases or other items. Whether it’s one space or more, you can deduct costs like rent, utilities, and insurance.
🏡   Home office costs
If your studio or office is located in your home, you can use a portion of the costs as deductions, including items like rent or mortgage interest, home or renters’ insurance, and utility bills.
📜   Memberships, licenses and subscriptions
If you have a membership granting access to several cultural centers, or you need a business license, these are deductions. So are subscriptions to professional magazines, or books that help support your artwork.
✈️   Travel expenses
If you have to travel for your courses, training sessions or professional conferences, you can deduct the costs of airfare, train, bus tickets, and accommodations.
🚗   Transportation costs
You can deduct the cost of transportation in the line of work, like subways or buses. If you use your own vehicle, you can deduct a portion of costs such as mileage, gas, parking, road tolls, repairs, maintenance, and car insurance.
💽   Electronic storage costs
If you require electronic storage space for your work, costs of items external hard drives or storage software can be used as freelance artist tax deductions.
📈   Promotional costs
Any type of promotional material like a website, brochures, business cards, advertising and more are considered freelance artist tax deductions.
📚   Cultural events, entrance fees and courses
If you are taking a special course, or you attend cultural events or museums, to advance your skills, these costs can be considered freelance artist tax deductions.
📱  Internet and other costs
The cost of the Internet and even a portion of your monthly phone bill, can be used as freelance artist tax deductions.
👨‍⚖️   Assistants or other contractors
You might hire an assistant to schedule an exhibition of your work, or you need support from another type of artist to complete a project. Those can be considered expenses.
👨‍💻   Accountants, lawyers and other business experts
The cost of professionals that support your business are considered tax deductions.
🏥   Health insurance
Any health insurance related costs can qualify as eligible tax write-offs for freelance artists.
💵   Commissions & fees
Legal fees, payment processing fees (PayPal, Stripe, and others).
If you decide to use an online system like Bonsai to support your tax tracking and filing, it’s considered a tax deduction.
Calculate my tax deductions

How to qualify if an artist expense is deductible or not?

You can’t deduct every expense incurred as there are guidelines in place, established by the federal taxing authority known as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The IRS defines a business expense as one that is both ordinary and necessary. The definition of an ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your industry, such as artists’ pencils. 

The definition of a necessary expense is one that is helpful and appropriate for your industry, but not necessarily indispensable. A class with a famous artist is an example.

Understanding the many freelance artist tax write-offs will be important as you run your business throughout the year. Establishing a system to track the expenses will make your life easier, too.

Get peace of mind at tax time.
Maximize your tax write-offs and save money.
Start Free

What freelance artist expenses are NOT tax deductible?

While it’s enticing to look at all your expenses as deductions, there are those not considered freelance artist tax deductions:

💲   All your home expenses
If you work from home, your office or studio needs to be an isolated place used just for your business, so you can’t consider your kitchen counter as an office. You then deduct a portion of home expenses, based on the size of the office.
🚕   Personal travel
If you go on a family vacation and happen to discuss your work with someone while on vacation, it doesn't mean you can deduct the entire cost of the trip.
🥯   All meal costs
There are some guidelines around using meals as tax deductions, and you can’t deduct the cost of an entire meal just because you happened to discuss your work with your lunch companion.

How can I use these freelance artist tax deductions?

Freelance artist tax deductions are important to track and record. Then you’ll be prepared when tax season rolls around. Here are a few ways you can access freelance artist tax deductions:

   1. Use the accounting and taxes tool available with Bonsai.

   2. Track your own deductions and file your own income tax return.

   3. Hire an accountant.

Remember, you can use Bonsai's free self-employment tax calculator to estimate your quarterly taxes!

Tax Deductions for Other Self Employed Workers

Not a freelance artist? Find tax deductions for your specific profession below.

Never miss another tax write-off.
Start Free

Identify every eligible freelance artist tax deduction using Bonsai.

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.